First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
APB: All Points Bulletin field report
- — 13 July, 2010 12:08
APB: All Points Bulletin
- The game's tutorial is barebones and doesn't offer nearly enough aid. It's a little surprising that Realtime Worlds didn't craft a robust tutorial to explain the many quirks of their game.
- Lag will brutally murder your fun and it happens enough that it tangibly impacts your experience; this is especially true if you've got a so-so net connection.
- It took me several hours to become halfway decent at driving. Steering your vehicle with the WASD configuration isn't intuitive, and using a 360 controller for driving wasn't an option -- at least not one I could find. [There are ways to hack support for a Xbox 360 controller, but we haven't seen an official announcement regarding controller support. –Ed]
- When it comes to actually firing a weapon, there's a noticeable disconnect between my intent and the actual outcome. Shooting is overly twitchy, and I often found myself aiming past my target and becoming disorientated.
- Using cars, corners and other in-world objects as cover is integral to combat. However, there's no actual "slide into cover" mechanic here like in Gears of War, and there really should be. It feels like a large oversight by Realtime Worlds, or perhaps it was a production issue. Either way, the game would have benefited immensely from a good cover system.
- Several Action District missions feel the same. Generally speaking, you'll be pressing the "use" key and watching a circular bar fill up while your character gathers evidence or breaks into a building or car.
- Certain missions favor highly defensive strategies, making them a pain in the neck to complete if you're on the attacking side. The VIP mission is the biggest offender. It's obviously designed to make players chase each other around in vehicles, but many players simply scale easily defensible buildings and wait out the clock while the other team attempts to push through a tiny corridor up the building. It's frustrating and just not fun when this happens.
- Missions typically result in pressing the interaction key and watching an orange circle fill up slowly. Opposing players will try to stop you, but it doesn't take long for the whole game to feel like nothing more than a glorified team deathmatch experience nonstop.
- At this moment, APB's community skews towards a more-than-average level of immaturity. To be fair, the game hasn't been out long, so time will have to tell if this continues or not. But for whatever reason, the community that has sprung up around the game so far leaves a lot to be desired.
- APB's biggest weakness is a lack of Action District content. If some new -- and this is key - more interesting mission types are added soon, it would alleviate combat fatigue.
- Right now nobody knows if new content will come with a price tag or not. Adding new content such as motorcycles, clothing items, cars and weapons will go a long ways towards keeping APB alive, but right now the topic remains a mystery.
The basic problem with APB is that combat content is lacking. The more immediate problem is that the game needs a much better tutorial -- and perhaps some more weapons balancing. The good news is that these are all solvable issues. So long as Realtime Worlds puts the people and time behind fleshing more of APB out, there's nothing stopping APB from carving out a strong niche in the online gaming market. Even with the recent layoffs, supposedly the headcount at Realtime Worlds is scheduled to increase in the short term to help support the game. Hopefully that's what will happen over the next month or so, because as many problems as there are with APB, I happen to really enjoy it when everything comes together just right.
The deep and vast level of customization in APB shows that Realtime Worlds can think outside the box and execute on their ideas. Unfortunately, the driving and combat seem to have suffered, likely due to all the resources required to make customization as insane as it is. Still, if Realtime Worlds really does expand their team post-launch and pump some serious people, time and money into this game it could end up being a whole lot better in a few short months.
So, with that in mind, I think it'd be best to re-visit the game in a little over another month to see what's been done up to that point, and what's on the horizon. I'm hoping to see some new content by that time, and to hear about some significant Action District content coming soon.
As I said before, when APB comes together it can be a lot of fun. If Realtime Worlds adequately addresses the deficiencies I described above, there's some real potential for a wider audience to enjoy the game. At the moment, however, there's a lot of problems to look past before the fun can begin. But APB is still a game unlike any other currently available, and for people who want what it's offering, it might be worth a look. I, for one, will keep on playing it in the hopes that Realtime Worlds turn APB into an experience that lives up to its potential; look for my next report on APB to see if they succeed or fail.